Firing-Discipline Interview

This week I had the opportunity to perform another interview. This time, the interview was for a person who is in charge of the disciplining and firing of employees. This is not a very fun topic, in fact is it a very sad and frustrating topic. It is, however, a topic that must be dealt with in the work place, and in order to be a good leader and manager, you must know how to discipline and fire employees when necessary. The person I chose to interview is Greg Gessel, who works for Mechanical Service and Systems. Following is a brief overview of the questions asked and responses.

What are some strategies that you utilize to help the employee that you are disciplining or firing remain calm? -make sure everything is documented so they can’t argue it.
Do you have tips on offering them appropriate comfort? -letting them know it happens to everyone, that I was in that position before, relating to them
Tell me about a time that you fired an employee and it did not go well. -had to try to get him off the customer site, he kept arguing about the why. Finally got someone else to come get him out to the parking lot and take him home
Describe a time where you saw improvement in an employee after disciplining them for inappropriate behavior. -we’ve had to sit down and give a verbal warning that we are watching and that they need to make certain changes, it helped a lot.
What documentation do you use when recording an employee’s poor performance or inappropriate behavior? Mostly just emails, between managers and employees and direct supervisors
What is the most common reason that you have had to discipline and/or fire and employee? Attendance. 90% is just showing up!
What do you find is the most common reason for termination? Not showing up to work.
What is the first step you take when an employee needs to be disciplined? Verbal warning
How do you prepare for a disciplinary meeting? Documentation mostly. Be able to show what they are doing wrong, so there’s no questions.
When firing an employee who else, besides the employee, is in attendance? Service manager (my upper management), we don’t have an HR. but with union company we have to have a shop steward- he’s like the union voice so everyone’s on the same page
What is the discipline process you follow when an employee continues to be a concern and is not rectifying the problem? Verbal, written, one-on-one sit down at office, then it should be termination. Skip straight to firing when safety is an issue
How many opportunities do you offer before termination (if applicable)? How do you determine what level of discipline is appropriate for a given offense? Safety is sending someone straight home to think about it. After that you’ll get let go. Depends on the offense and how legit the excuse. We tend to keep people much longer than we should, people don’t have the guts to just fire them.
Would you rather fire a problematic employee quickly so as to not waste more time with them, or try to work with the employee to rectify behavior in hopes to avoid having to fire? Company policy is to work with them, but I’d rather get rid of them quicker.
Other than the employee of concern, who do you include in the discipline process? (ie- do you involve HR, team leaders, other coworkers?) Just upper management.
What are the financial implications of firing someone? (I.e do you have to offer a severance package, etc) -training someone new, uniforms, etc., to get someone new is usually more trouble than keeping the old guy

-we don’t offer severance packages

Are there questions you ask yourself to make sure the discipline you have chosen is fair? -how will this affect everyone else

-how will this affect the company’s perception from the outside

-is this completely justified, or am I just reacting?

How do you handle your own feelings during and after the interview? -you feel bad, and you feel upset

-it is hard to remain calm. That is something I need to work on

-try to remain calm

-step away if you need to

-but when you feel justified that helps


Outcomes- what I learned: I was surprised to learn that the most important thing when firing or disciplining someone, according to Greg, is to have proper documentation and rationale. I knew that was important, but it seemed that most questions I asked Greg came back to that in some way. He helped me to understand that no matter what you do, emotions (on both the employee side and the management side) are going to be strong when having to enact discipline and especially when having to hire. According to him, it is hard to really get around that. However, proper documentation can help with this. If everything is documented and there is a very clear trail leading up to the discipline/fire, then it is hard for the employee to argue against it, even if his emotions are high. And if there is a very clear trail leading up to the discipline/fire, then the manager, even though he also may have high emotions, can also feel justified and know that the decision he is making is the right one. Greg says that having documentation just makes everything so much easier and justifiable. I also liked what Greg said about safety. He said that most of the time they try to work with employees to help resolve issues, but when safety is a big concern, that is when they might have to go straight to firing or other grievous consequences. One more thing I learned is that there are pros and cons to firing. It isn’t fun to have to rehire and retrain a new person. Sometimes it is worth it to work a little longer with an employee to try to fix the problem. But other times, you just have to get rid of the employee and stop wasting time with them. I think that as a manager, you would really have to weigh the pros and cons and decide what decision is the best for the company and for the employee. 

Summary: It was great to interview Greg for this assignment. He has had some interesting experiences with having to discipline and fire employees and it definitely gave me some insight into what it is like to be a manager in that position. I really learned a lot about the importance of documentation, and I will be sure to remember that in the future. Without documentation, it is hard to move forward with any form of discipline. But with it, the manager can be justified in their disciplinary actions and the employee can have clear reasons for why the discipline is taking place. This is definitely something that will be valuable for me to remember when I am in management positions in the future.

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